A play about two characters falling in love, a play that's sweet and comic, sounds like a perfect treat for Valentine's Day weekend.
And it might be. But be warned: “Stop Kiss,” opening tonight at the Midnight Sun, has two sides.
It is about both love and hate – a hate crime, in fact.
“This particular valentine comes equipped with warning lights,” Ben Brantley wrote in a New York Times review of a 1998 production there.
The play, by Diana Son, tells the story of a young woman who moves to New York City and falls in love – with the city and with a female friend.
“It tells a love story between two women and also the story of what happens when there’s hate,” said Elizabeth Lord, who’s directing the show for Prodigal Sun Productions. “These women have always identified as heterosexual, and the day that they finally work up enough nerve to kiss each other romantically, they’re attacked.”
Lord, an actress and storyteller and vice president of Prodigal Sun, hasn’t directed a show in four years, but she found this one to be irresistible.
“It’s very well written and clever in its back and forth with time,” she said. The play alternates between relating the events that lead up to the kiss and those that happen after the attack.
“And it’s a play with two strong female leads,” Lord said. “You don’t find a lot of plays with good strong female lead roles.”
Playing one of those lead roles – Sara, who moves from St. Louis to New York City and falls in love with longtime New Yorker Callie – is Katie Driscoll of Seattle.
Driscoll is studying theater at The Evergreen State College; she’ll graduate this spring. She loves this play so much that she had considered producing it herself as a senior project. Then she heard about Prodigal Sun’s production and decided to audition for that instead.
“The writing is quite striking,” Driscoll said. “I love the idea of the scenes flip-flopping, taking the audience through the past and the present.”
She finds bits of her own life reflected in Sara’s journey. “I’ve been out longer than my character has, so it’s fun to discover those moments again through Sara and through her interactions with Callie.
“I have a lot of respect for my character,” the actress added. “She’s an amazing, strong woman. She is brave. She’s figuring out her life.”
And Sara is falling in love with New York City much the way Driscoll fell in love with Seattle when she moved there 10 years ago from her native Iowa.
“Just walking down the street for her is very exciting,” Driscoll said. “Just riding on the subway is new. She’s open to these experiences and her friendship with Callie. She and Callie teach one another that new things can be OK, that strong, bold changes can be safe. They find each other, and it blossoms.
“It’s a sweet tale of friendship.”